Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Allowing suicides

Suicides have been decriminalized in the country. It is very obvious that within a short time, suicides willbe legalized in the country. I’m not sure of what the implications will be. Recently, we had one patient who sort of gave us the clue on what could happen once there is a free license to commit suicide and suicide becomes an acceptable cause of death.

I very well understand extreme situations caused by medical and social conditions which push people to commit suicide. I’ve had at least couple of friends and relatives, who committed suicide, know families who have been badly affected for generations just because of the fact that someone in the family had decided to take his or her own life. I sympathise with them. I do not plan to pass a judgement on any who took this extreme step.

However, my belief in Jesus who is the resurrection and life to all those who believe in Him prevents me from accepting suicide as an acceptable cause of death.

Let me narrate about a patient who came to us couple of weeks back . . .

Mr. AS, a 60 year old gentleman was brought into the emergency by 2 young men with severe vomiting and in a confused state. One of the young men who claimed to be the nephew of the elderly gentleman told us that the patient was found in the fields early morning and it seems that he had taken poison.

There was no point in talking to the elderly man as he was quite confused and agitated. He was slowly losing consciousness. As we examined the patient, we realised that it could very well be a case of poisoning as his mouth and clothes were stinking with the characteristic smell of pesticide.

We had to really struggle to get a nasogastric tube down his throat and soon we were sure of the diagnosis. It seemed that he had drunk a whole bottle of the pesticide.

Considering into the fact that the patient was trying his best to resist any of our attempts to treat him, I made a comment that considering into fact that suicide is going to be legalised, hospitals may end up in a state where they will have to get a written consent from relatives before starting to treat any patient who is in a bad shape after a suicide attempt.

One of my nurses suggested that suicide attempters should be rather allowed to die. Then another commented that it is time that medically assisted suicide, euthanasia should be legalised in the country.

Meanwhile, the other bystander who claimed to be a neighbour commented that the patient was having a tough time as his wife and children had abandoned him and in such a situation it is quite difficult for him to have a quality life.

By God’s grace, Mr. AS did quite well. We needed about 100 ampules of Atropine to treat him.

However, as soon as Mr. AS showed signs of improvement the 2 young men who brought him disappeared. Mr. AS was alone in the ward for one whole night. The next day, early morning, our staff made frantic efforts to trace his address. AS was still confused and could not give coherent replies to our queries.

It was a blessing when another patient identified AS and told us that he knows the guy. It turned out that AS was from a distant place which was more near to a bigger city than to us. Within couple of hours, AS’s family was with him.

The wife narrated how AS was taken away by couple of his nephews for some discussions regarding ancestral property. Then she got a phone call from AS that he has been forcibly fed poison by his nephews and he pleaded her to get help. After that she did not get any information about AS. Considering that the family was poor and from a backward caste, she did not know if she’ll get help from anyone and therefore, she did not do much till she received our phone call.

Over the next few days, both his sons came. They were employed elsewhere. They were also quite scared after hearing what had happened.

Now soon we will be in a situation where suicide is made legal and such a patient may not be brought to the hospital at all.

Here AS lived quite near to a larger town where he could have been taken to hospitals with better facilities and options of better treatment. Instead, he was brought to us where we only have quite basic facilities.

Considering that the case is now sub-judice, I do not want to make any more comments.

However, the incident brings up at least one issue which can come up once suicides are legalised in the country. The elderly in our communities are in the danger of being killed by their own relatives and then dubbed as suicide.

As I discussed this with my friends, one of them narrated about how euthanasia has become a ‘boon’ for many a family to dispose of a nagging sick elderly person in the family in some of the western countries. Considering into fact that ritualistic suicide is part of the culture in at  least few of our communities, suicides and assisted suicide will be easily assimilated in our day to day lives.
The sanctity of human lives is in danger . . . are we bothered?  


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